They’re not just about sophisticated good looks and majestic choral charm. When it comes to Canada’s richly acclaimed pop-crossover quartet, The Tenors have never forgotten where their voices once echoed…in the halls of elementary schools, small churches, on dimly lit stages – with a handful of local minions that supported every bellowing effort, without ever realizing how renownedly influential the members of this group would become. The meager beginnings of Victor Micallef, Fraser Walters, Clifton Murray, and Remigio Pereira (formerly known as The Canadian Tenors) are something of a muted past these days. Currently on a 70-date North American tour that hoists them into the “glitz and glamour” of superstardom…they may be singing for presidents, celebrities, and royal dignitaries combined…but their profound determination for giving back, and bringing a powerful voice to the roots of music education, towers far above every regal melody they can hypnotize their audience with. The Tenors’ resonant harmonies and soulful passages are enough to move mountains…they bring me to tears…and so does their dedication to youth. Catching up with the dashing crooners for a rare and intimate “Band Aid Celebration” during Juno Week in Regina, Saskatchewan (on behalf of MusiCounts) – I don’t think young, aspiring Canadian performers could ask for better mentors…when it comes to scintillating voices that show just how “COOL” choir can be, and why funding for music-related programs is so critical.
In 1997, CARAS (the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) instituted the Band Aid Grant Program by sharing proceeds from the 25th Annual Juno Awards commemorative CD box-set “Oh What A Feeling” with their charity partner, MusiCounts. The initiatives would go to support and promote music education in underfunded schools across Canada, and has since donated over $6,000,000 to approximately 520,000 students…all of which have an inner passion to embrace musical creativity and the social fulfillment that it can spark in their lives. During Juno Week 2013, Saskatchewan youth benefitted from these crucial efforts once again with $90,000 worth of grants and equipment awarded to local schools…and having M.C. O’Neill Catholic High School (in Regina) nationally recognized for their concentrated vocal program – a first time in MusiCounts’ history. Marked by a heart-rendering accompaniment with internationally exalted recording artists, THE TENORS…it was one of the most spiritually uplifting moments I have ever witnessed, and captured the essence of what “The Junos” are really all about…daring to dream, people working together, the power of commitment, and how CANADA’S MUSIC can change the world.
“They picked us because of our spirit…and because we are a cool part of the music community.” said O’Neill Principal Dale Reed, commenting that the 200-body school choir has something to be genuinely proud of. It’s a 28.5% ratio of their entire student population, and since performing with The Tenors & receiving some well-overdue cash flow, will probably see the numbers skyrocket by the end of the year. As the wave of youth broke into “Baba Yetu”, a Swahili version of The Lord’s Prayer, hope and excitement sprang from the tender, nervous faces…this was the moment of a lifetime and a beginning for new opportunities. Out of 400 applications, 86 grants were recently allotted to Canadian schools this year (totalling $735,000) – none of which would be possible without sponsors like Bell Media, Astral Media, TD Bank Group, Music Canada, Sirius XM, Slaight Family Foundation, Vista Radio…and the support of key industry labels like Sony, Universal, and Warner Music. But teachers are the most pivotal component to the measure’s success, as the filing of applications and general outreach within their communities all starts with them. “Music is the future of this country.” MusiCounts Director Allan Reid states, “We don’t see it as a frill in education…we believe it should be a core subject in all schools. Kids deserve the opportunity to experience music and create music.” With reference to the 2012 movie “Here Comes The Boom”, starring Kevin James as a teacher that moonlights as a MMA fighter to raise funds for his depleting musical program, it comically relishes in a situation that is often too desperately real. Budget cutbacks regularly leave arts-related activities severely underfunded, and MusiCounts initiatives are vital to keeping instruments within the hands of children…and songs within their hearts…regardless of any socio-economic circumstances. “It’s such an important part of education, nourishing the soul…” says Victor Micallef of The Tenors, “being a part of a program like MusiCounts…that gives that opportunity. The first thing to be cut…what is it? It’s music, unfortunately. We’re just happy to be here…celebrating with these young people.”
“It takes us right back to where we grew up.” adds vocalist Fraser Walters, “My school didn’t have a choral program, or I would’ve been in it. But I’m lucky, I found music through other means…starting on different instruments. It’s very, very important to support these kids at a young age. Music can inform many other styles of things, and it’s a real gift to share music with other people…so we do it for that.” Beyond monetary allocation for elementary and high schools, MusiCounts partners with Bell Media to grant the “Fred Sherratt Award” to twelve post-secondary graduates from Canadian music courses. They also present the annual “Teacher of the Year” award, recognizing the hard work of leaders dedicated to keeping music education viable for all students. 2013’s “Teacher of the Year” honour was recently presented to Mark Reid (Fine Arts Department Head/Director of Bands and Choir) from Vancouver Technical Secondary School, in which Shania Twain granted the distinction along with $20,000 on behalf of MusiCounts for Mark’s teaching and program efforts. He also received a crystal “Juno” statuette and all-expense paid trip to The Juno Awards, hosted this year in Regina. Other artist sponsors for the “Teacher of the Year” award have included The Rolling Stones, Celine Dion, The Tragically Hip, Billy Talent, Anne Murray, Michael Bublé, and Canadian country sensation Johnny Reid.
Dr. L.M. Hanna Elementary School and Prairie Valley North Band Program were also in attendance at the MusiCounts’ celebration for a special unveiling of instruments…being local grant recipients, themselves. It was followed by The Tenors’ impactful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” & striking single “Forever Young” from the group’s latest platinum-selling album – Lead With Your Heart. In a timeless outpour of “Classic Meets Contemporary”…etched with operatic fluency and soul-bending, expansive vocal cascades…empowerment rose to the crescendo, emphasizing “UNITY” through causes that are much greater than our own individual abilities. “Music brings people together, especially in hard times.” Micallef comments, reflecting on how lucky the group has been through their extraordinary career, “We thank the Canadian fans…they’ve been amazing! Our hearts go out to them, because…they are why we are here.” The concept of composer Jill Ann Siemans in 2003, a cross-Canada search finally tapped into the outstanding combination of Micallef, Walters, Pereira, and Murray – who have delighted worldwide audiences with their traditional, yet exotic choral essence packed with dense emotional aptitude. From their first holiday album “The Perfect Gift” (released in 2009)…The Tenors have performed during Grey Cup, with Celine Dion on The Oprah Winfrey Show, appeared on the 2011 Emmy Awards, toured with award-winning producer David Foster, entertained world leaders during the G20 Summit, shared stages with countless icons ranging from Sting to Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John, plus celebrated esteemed recognition with the “Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal” on January 24th, 2013. Considered as CANADA’S NATIONAL TREASURE – The Tenors are the embodiment of power, mind, and spirit…striving for change through their greatest cultural asset, the ability to enlighten the hearts of others with the genuine posterity of their songs.
Music is a universal language that often triggers the greatest social impact…be it through embellishing advertising, bringing live entertainment together, fundraising for world causes, or an individual’s own interpretation of the feeling it emits. Hans Christian Andersen once said, “Where words fail, music speaks.” – it brings a consciousness to us all, which might otherwise go unaccounted for. As I stare at these adolescents, remembering my own simple beginnings in choir and “a cappella”, I see a bright future in their eyes…and it’s all because someone cared enough to make a difference. “There’s numbers to it,” Allan Reid states, “but really it’s TELL US YOUR STORY…why you need this money and what you’re gonna do with it…and how it will affect not just your student body, but your overall community.” He then leaves me with one final thought, “Music can help you all throughout life.”
On the crown of winning their first-ever JUNO AWARD for “Adult Contemporary Album of the Year” (Lead With Your Heart), The Tenors continue to take some of Canada’s greatest music to an evolutionary new breadth. They steer their songs with pride and a dignified execution that is unstoppable, often writing and co-writing many of their catalyst-like anthems based upon their own unique experiences. Lending their highly-trained voices and likable dispositions to the efforts of MusiCounts, creates a lasting harmony for many children that may have never known the enrichment that music can bring…some of them that may (one day) go on to becoming Juno Award winners, themselves. The Tenors make leading with your heart look so easy, keeping us all “Forever Young” with a distinctness that is truly inspirational.
To see images from the Archbishop M.C. O’Neill “Band Aid Celebration” & hear excerpts from interviews with Victor Micallef and Fraser Walters of “The Tenors”…plus discussion about charity efforts with Allan Reid (MusiCounts Director) – please visit this link.
Get involved with MusiCounts (or make a donation) by visiting: http://musicounts.ca/
For more information on CARAS, join them over at: http://carasonline.ca/
Keep up-to-date on “The Tenors” through joining their official website: http://www.tenorsmusic.com/